Friday, August 31, 2012

"Lemon law" to kick in on Sep 1

SINGAPORE : Singapore's "lemon law" will kick in on September 1.

The new legislation will provide more options through additional remedies, such as repair and replacement, and provide greater clarity on the burden of proof for defective goods.

The lemon law will have a two-stage recourse framework for consumers. At the first stage, consumers may ask the seller to replace or repair the defected goods within a reasonable period of time. But if this isn't possible, consumers can move on to the next stage, where they can keep the defected goods and ask for a reduction in price or return them for a refund.

Currently, the exchange or refund policy can differ between retailers. Some shops may offer up to seven days to exchange products, while others have a strict "no refund" policy.

Customers at Swedish furniture giant IKEA have all along been benefiting from its 100-day return policy.

This means that if customers change their mind on purchases, they can return the items within 100 days from the date of purchase.

With the lemon law in place, they will now have up to six months to take action on any defective product.

Most customers welcome the lemon law.

One customer said: "When there was no such law, I would not be bothered to go back and change (the item), because I am afraid there will be this and that, a lot more issues. So, now that there is such a law, I will definitely bring it back to change."

Another commented: "That is something they do in the US already...And I think it is nice, actually. It is good for business also because in the end, people would end up buying more because they know they can always return them."

Others were concerned that some may abuse the law.

One person said: "What the retailers can do is actually state the terms and conditions clearly, and maybe state it on the cashier counter and on the receipts. Everything should be black and white, and have no grey areas, so that consumers can better know what is a defective product and they can exchange the product."

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said: "With the new lemon law, consumers and retailers now have more options of recourse for defective goods.

"I encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with the provisions under the law. At the same time, we also want to ensure that businesses are not subject to frivolous claims and that limitations and safeguards are in place."

The government will monitor how smaller retailers adjust to the new law.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) will gather feedback for some three months and work towards closing gaps, if any.

Mr Teo said: "For smaller retailers, sometimes, it is harder to implement some of the good, excellent measures of the major retailers because of cost issue, because of volume, because of the type of products.

"We will be monitoring the smaller retailers, their responses and how they manage the process more carefully, because we want to make sure that it actually enhances the experience for them, it actually helps them in their business."

Mr Teo added : "It is important to let the law be implemented and accumulate enough experiences for the retailers as well as consumers. And then we monitor and see what is the outcome, how is it done, and then we can figure out what are the gaps to close, if there are any gaps, and figure out some of the measures or counter measures, and see how we can help the smaller retailers or even the consumers go through with the transactions."

To help reduce the impact on business, Mr Teo encouraged smaller retailers to focus on building personalised relationships with customers.

To make it easier for customers to track their purchases, customers of electronics, furniture and IT retailer Courts, can now access their product purchase information online, or 'e-receipts' - so they do not have to worry about losing receipts, which are usually required as proof of purchase.

These 'e-receipts' allow them to easily retrieve vital information such as product purchase dates.

The MTI and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) have organised some 40 seminars and roadshows to brief consumers and retailers on the new law.

MTI said 15 additional briefing sessions are expected to be held over the next two months.

MTI has also worked with CASE and various trade associations to develop lemon law consumer guides.

These will explain the consumers' rights under the law, and the limitations and safeguards against frivolous claims. These guides will be available at supermarkets, and places like community centres and shopping centres.

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